Body camera footage from Georgia deputies who stopped and searched the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team bus last month conflicts with official statements by the law enforcement agency that backed the action.
The bodycam footage — obtained by the Delaware Online newspaper — shows Liberty County deputies clearly searching through players’ team and personal belongings – actions that counter Sheriff William Bowman’s claim that no search was conducted.
The video shows bus driver Tim Jones opening the door and exiting the bus after being stopped on I-95 on April 20 in Georgia to speak with a deputy. Jones explains that the bus is carrying a women’s lacrosse team headed back to Delaware and there are about 30 people, including himself, aboard.
Also read: Georgia sheriff denies racial profiling in traffic stop involving Delaware State lacrosse team
A deputy tells Jones the bus was pulled over for driving in the far left lane, an apparent violation of Georgia highway code. Jones explains that he was only in that lane to pass other vehicles before being told by a deputy that trucks were restricted from being in the lane. Buses were not mentioned.
The video later shows additional deputies arriving at the scene with K-9 dogs that allegedly alert them to search for possible drugs on the bus.
The deputies, who were all white, checked bags for nearly 30 minutes and then explained it was necessary, in case of child trafficking or narcotics.
One player is asked by a deputy to open a wrapped box. That player, Aniya Aiken, explains she doesn’t know what’s in the package because it’s a gift from her aunt.
“You see that kinda seems like ‘What’s going on?'” the deputy asks … This is the type of stuff we look for.”
“We initiated a traffic stop for a motor coach traveling northbound on I-95. This is part of our commercial interdiction detail on the interstate,” Bowman said in a news conference on Tuesday. “There were several commercial vehicles stopped that morning, including another bus where contraband was located. Due to the nature of the detail, a K-9 was part of the stop and an alert was given by the K-9. A K-9 sniff of the exterior is not a search under the Fourth Amendment and does cause us to provide search of the vehicle.”
The newspaper reported that Georgia law allows a law enforcement officer who legally stops a vehicle to conduct a criminal investigation as long as there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.
“However, without this reasonable suspicion, “the extension of an otherwise completed traffic stop in order to conduct a free-air search of a vehicle using a drug dog violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. the newspaper reported.”
Delaware State University officials said the school will explore its legal options regarding the traffic stop.
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